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A Year in Japan Paperback – March 1, 2006
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Best Postcollege Memoir: An insightful journal with text and illustrations of the wonders and oddities she saw. -- Glamour Magazine, April 2006
watercolors and text that explores everything from washi paper to karaoke etiquette (hint: singing Elton John, okay; Mariah Carey, not). -- Travel + Leisure, April 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
She is fascinated by the famous wedded rocks at Meoto-Iwa, the patterns on washcloths, the colors available for backpacks, the foam cozies around apples, the difference in accessories between maiko girls and geishas, the everyday dress of sumo wrestlers, and the delicacies in a bento box. Luckily so am I. In between the pictures are brief essays that serve to provide back stories for the illustrations. Her impressions reflect an idiosyncratic eye, and her topics range from Hiroshima's one thousand paper cranes to karaoke private rooms to the details of the vegetarian cuisine of shojin-ryori to the rock n' roll-obsessed temple carpenters of the Kyoto Rockabilly Club. It is obvious her designer instincts are well stimulated by the variety of textiles, umbrellas and accessories she discovers there. Williamson is able to bring this all together thanks to her singular perspective and an eye for minutiae that can truly define a culture. Nippon-ophiles can rejoice at her graphically pleasing book.
Every page is a pleasant portal into a world other than my own. The book is built loosely around the seasons and their shifting, and is thus also exciting as a work to be read through from front cover to back. Occasional references to the seasons provide an anchor for the reader, for example, you find out how traditional Japanese sweets have a specific shape and flavor in autumn, and about the kinds of umbrellas available during the rainy season.
The illustrations and texts are crafted with such thoughtfulness, brightness and love (much like the above-mentioned sutra text) that I am immediately transported into the author's world when I open the book, and feel delighted to share in her enchantment and exploratory spirit.
I always show friends this book when they visit.
Kate T. Williamson designed and illustrated her book as well as wrote a journal of her year in Kyoto, Japan. She was enamoured with Japanese customs and objects (like apples in foam cozies and mangos impaled on chopsticks to make less-sticky eating) and created a book to celebrate them.
Williamson, who lives in New York City, studied filmmaking at Harvard University. Her love of travel and interest in sock design, along with a postgraduate fellowship, took her to Kyoto. For a year, she filled journals with her thoughts and sketches.
While reading of Williamson's discoveries during her year of noticing, I was reminded of Natalie Goldberg who has also written of her travels to Japan to explore the land of her Zen teacher. But mostly I'm reminded of Goldberg because of the attention paid to the celebration and naming of everyday things. As Goldberg says, naming something "wakes you up to it". Both writers illustrate their work and I find pure delight in Goldberg's naive drawings, accompanying her poetry, just as I enjoyed Williamson's drawings and watercolours.
As for the names, Williamson gives the names of the ordinary things in Japanese as well as English. Green tea is matcha, used in tea ceremonies. To sweeten the matcha one eats a piece of wagashi, of molded sugar or bean paste. The illustration is a cup of green on a stark white page as if the artist has just drawn it and presented it to the reader.Read more ›
In my opinion, some reviewers have missed the point - this book does not claim to be a novel, a travel guide, or even a memoir. It's simply a window into the everyday beauty of life in Japan.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've bought this book for several different people. It's a great book to give to people who have an interest in Japan, art journaling, sketching or everyday drawing. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Carin Wallace
Found this book in a thrift shop, bought it because it looked pretty, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Read morePublished 11 months ago by William R. Meyers
Loved the illustrations! It makes for great coffee table reading material.Published 13 months ago by Dan
Kate Williamson has an eye for the subtle yet beautiful details that prevail in Japanese culture. I couldn't put the book down, it was just so beautiful and delightful. Read morePublished 18 months ago by kristi
Whimsical observations with exquisite illustrations. Lovely coffe table book.Published 18 months ago by Mary Karen McClelland
Beautifully illustrated and a humble look at Japan and all it's uniqueness. A good book to have when traveling there. I love amazon and their affiliates. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Amazonlover
I enjoy the lovely artistic art work by Kate T. Williamson. I love how she shares about the simple things from the japanese culture. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Stephanie R.